If you’re like most voters in Arkansas, you rarely if ever cast a ballot in school board elections. This May and November, that will start to change.
That’s because the Legislature last year voted to require school districts to choose between holding elections to coincide either with the May primaries or the November general elections. Because of that, school board candidates are filing for office now alongside candidates in other races.
Previously, school elections were in September, when few voters were interested or often even realized elections were occurring.
The answer to “What’s the purpose of college?” is longer than the 280 characters Twitter allows per tweet. But you can at least start a conversation in that amount of space.
Such a conversation was started last week when Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, tweeted a picture of a University of Arkansas at Little Rock billboard featuring a dance major. He commented that higher education doesn’t need extra funding if this is how it would be spent. Instead of dance, the university should be encouraging computer science degrees and math teachers, he wrote.
The tweet drew a response from Savvy Shields. If you don’t recognize her name, you certainly recognize the title: Miss America 2017, and before that, Miss Arkansas. The art major disagreed, arguing that the arts can inspire people and change society. Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, tweeted in support of Hester’s position, and then there was a minor social media firestorm that since has been forgotten.
College: Job skills or life skills?
Now that the Twitter argument has slipped into the recesses of cyberspace, the question remains: “What’s the purpose of college?”
The selection of the Arkansas Teacher of the Year is supposed to be a surprise, but Randi House, a kindergarten teacher at Conway’s Theodore Jones Elementary School, was already wiping away tears before her name was called.
House earlier had been named one of four semifinalists, so she knew she was in the running for the award. On Sept. 29, she was standing against the wall during a “school assembly” as the children sat on the floor listening to a reading. That’s when she saw Education Commissioner Johnny Key, other officials, her family, and news reporters file into the room.
House received a $14,000 check from the Walton Family Foundation. In February, she’ll train with other Teachers of the Year in California. And then July 1, she’ll leave the classroom for a year and travel the state promoting the profession, visiting with other teachers and learning new techniques. She’ll also be a nonvoting member of the Arkansas State Board of Education.
A shortage of teachers and future teachers
Hopefully she’ll be able to help reverse a trend that has policymakers concerned – a teacher shortage accompanied by a falling number of students studying to be teachers in Arkansas. Over a five-year period, enrollees in first-time teacher licensure programs dropped by more than half. In 2011-12, 7,758 candidates were enrolled in such programs. In 2015-16, it was 3,737.
The natives were restless. Someone’s head had to be chopped off. And Jeff Long’s was the nearest one.
Long, as you no doubt already know, was fired as University of Arkansas Athletic Director Wednesday. Thanks to his contract, he’ll be paid up to $4.625 million by the Razorback Foundation. The football coach, Bret Bielema, would be owed almost $5.9 million – or maybe more – if he were fired, which might happen by the time you read this.